In which the ladies have a private chat and we learn more about the mysterious object in the Cobra.

“Hey Sammy, you down there?” The voice came echoing down the maintenance conduit in the Eagle.

Startled, Samantha Mcleod cursed as she bumped her head on some ducting.
“Is that you, Paulssen? What the hell are you doing down here?”

“Looking for you, dumbass. Got something for you.”

Sammy backed slowly out of the tight conduit, making sure that her tools were secure in her overall pockets. “What, you couldn’t message me?”

“Uh-uh. Didn’t want to trust this one to GalNet,” said Paulsen as she extended a hand and helped Sammy out of the access hatch. “You got somewhere we can talk?”

“Sure. My office?”

Rosie Paulssen walked with the lithe bouncing stride of one used to low Coriolis gravity...

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It is dark here. I feel alone, most of the time. Lost. The sounds of my brothers so far removed that I cannot be sure that they are real or just my imagination. The smell of the cloud sea is gone; these smells are unfamiliar to me. I do not know where I am, or how I came to be here. I was swimming with my brothers, I saw a strange light above me, and then nothing until I woke up here.

 I stretch out, feeling the confines of the space where I am. It is small and angular, confined and hard. I drift, expanding my awareness.  I can feel unfamiliar pathways connected with strange beings, some close, others far distant. I try to talk to the closest ones but they are mute and unresponsive. Reaching out, I explore the distant pathways...

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Samantha Mcleod slouched in the co-pilot’s chair of the Objects in Mirror are Closer than they Appear, her feet up on the console. It had been a long day, and although she loved her work she didn’t particularly enjoy spending all of what was supposed to be her free time working on someone else’s ship, even if that someone was her some-time boyfriend, currently abroad exploring and ‘road-testing’ his new Diamondback Explorer, the Slippery When Wet.

Commander Calvert’s Cobra lay hidden in maintenance hangar 00, an unlisted dock that on occasion did double-duty as Sammy’s unofficial personal workspace. The diagnostic terminal in her hand was linked to the ship’s computer, which was resolutely refusing to provide the expected results from her routine power-management test.

“Alright, baby...

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 Void fever, you say? Let me tell you about void fever. Everybody thinks it’s just commanders getting a little jumpy from being too long out in the black on their own with no-one to talk to. Yeah, right. I’ve been there, pal. If that’s all it was I wouldn’t be so desperate to get back into inhabited space and get the hell out of this cocoon of a ship, to walk on a station, drink in the Star & Garter, see other human beings again. There’s got to be something else going on here.

At first it was the noises at night when the ship was cooling and I was trying to sleep – little taps, squeaks, pings, scratches, other weird sounds. The demons in the darkness, I call them. Sometimes I would hear fragments of their voices that sounded like they might be parts of words, other times just monosyllables, clicks and insect-like sounds, like cicadas at sunrise...

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It’s now been some months since I entered the Eta Draconis system and took up with the 8th Dragon squadron in their fight for justice for Gold Vision Co. It sure made a change from the grind of trading and the Dragons are a great bunch of Commanders to share a few beers with, that’s for sure.

Then there was the Gliese 900.1 campaign, where we’d been fighting to help Emperor’s Grace gain control of the system. I’d had a little trouble with this one as I’d had some financial problems paying off the loan I took out when I bought the Cobra back in Eravate...

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